Appearances & Goals To Date
|Youngest Player:||Lee Cox (19 years 105 days)
|Oldest Player:||Grant Munro (2011 years 66 days)|
|Average Player Age:||24 years 65 days|
|Domestic Players:||11 (100.00 % of starting eleven)|
|Youngest Player:||Lee Cox (19 years 105 days)|
|Oldest Player:||Andrew Barrowman (2011 years 66 days)|
|Average Player Age:||24 years 65 days|
|Domestic Players:||16 (100.00 % of matchday squad)|
First Team Debuts
|Adam Rooney played his 50th major competitive game for the Club.|
Caley Thistle overcame stubborn resistance by Ross County to reach their third Challenge Cup final.
Robert Eagle’s fortunate goal just before half-time gave Terry Butcher’s men the win and, although County threatened more in the second half on the basis of their first half display it was a deserved victory for the Inverness club.
Manager Butcher will hope that a home victory over his sides local rivals will give a boost in confidence for forthcoming league matches.
Caley made three changes from the XI who fell to defeat against Partick Thistle - Graham Shinnie, Nick Ross and Andy Barrowman dropped out and Stuart Golabek, Robert Eagle and Dani Sanchez stepped in. Ross County made one change from their defeat at Dens Park the previous week with Steven Craig missing out due to injury, his place taken by Stuart Kettlewell. Ross County featured former Caley Thistle players Steven Watt and Iain Vigurs in their starting XI with Garry Wood on the bench. As well as Golabek, Caley had former Ross County hitman Andy Barrowman on the substitutes bench.
The match started in a low key atmosphere compared to the previous league game, something contributed to by the significantly reduced turnout from both sets of supporters. Perhaps driven by the meek surrender in the previous derby, the early running was made by Caley Thistle, whose midfield looked determined not to be overrun again by County. Richie Foran, Caley’s Irish targetman, looked lively and it was he who came closest in the early stages when he hit a swerving low shot from a direct free kick which County stopper Michael McGovern had to scramble away for a corner.
Foran then picked up a short pass from striker partner Sanchez, outmuscled a defender and cracked a dipping shot just over the crossbar from 18 yards. The ex-Motherwell player has been criticised by some in the Inverness support this season but he was getting the better of just about every encounter with the Ross County rearguard. As well as winning balls in the air, Foran also gathered forward balls on the floor well, causing problems for the County rearguard all afternoon.
In contrast to the previous derby, which lacked the fire and spark that characterised this fixture in previous years, there were several crunching challenges in the first half with Iain Vigurs lucky to escape a booking for a lunge at Robert Eagle. Russell Duncan meted out his own version of on-field justice minutes later by crunching Vigurs in return but again the referee kept his cards in his pockets.
Despite dominating proceedings it looked as though Caley Thistle would head to the dressing room with nothing to show for their endeavours until Robert Eagle struck with a fortunate goal to give the Inverness side the lead. Jonathan Hayes curled in a dangerous cross from the left and Richie Foran out jumped McGovern to win the header. The ball fell to Robert Eagle wide on the left of the penalty area and his attempted cross to the back post dropped into the net, evading a County defender on the line. It was a welcome slice of luck for Caley Thistle and Eagle was mobbed by his ecstatic team-mates as he celebrated his third goal for Caley Thistle.
Seconds after the opener had been struck Caley Thistle came within inches of doubling their advantage. Hayes bent in a superb ball from a free kick 40 yards out and his pass was met by the head of centre-back Narius Bulvitis. His effort was heading for the top corner but McGovern redeemed himself from his suspect efforts at the Caley goal by beating the ball away for a corner.
Half Time 1-0
There was one change at half-time as former Queens Park and Clyde midfielder Stuart Kettlewell was withdrawn by Derek Adams. Martin Scott was put on in his place.
Ross County started the second half with a renewed vigour and managed to push the Caley Jags midfield back and put the defence under pressure. Despite this, the Caley Jags backline were able to remain strong, with Bulvitis winning a number of headers. County did manage several dangerous crosses across the area but none found a County head.
Iain Vigurs was withdrawn just after the hour mark in favour of Garry Wood and the former Caley Jags striker almost put his old team-mates to the sword minutes after that when he found himself clean through on goal, following a long pass from deep. Wood managed a good connection but his shot was brilliantly saved by an in-form Ryan Esson and the rebound was cleared by Duncan. Wood was often criticised for his lack of goals whilst at the Caledonian Stadium and he will have been bitterly disappointed not to have taken this opportunity.
Controversy flared midway through the second half as a touchline tussle between Hayes and County left back Scott Morrison ended with the Irish winger seemingly felled by an elbow from the former Aberdeen and Dunfermline player. Despite there being clear contact between the players and the fact that the linesman was literally two feet away from the incident, no action was taken against Morrison when a red card had looked the only possible outcome.
County continued to push forward and pepper the Caley Thistle area with dangerous balls but they came closest following a long range effort. Stuart Golabek made an error in passing the ball back into a dangerous area and former Celtic midfielder Paul Lawson fired in a howitzer that rebounded off Esson’s cross bar.
In the last ten minutes Caley Jags withdrew Lee Cox in favour of Daniel Stratford and Dani Sanchez for Adam Rooney. Late in the game Rooney almost sealed it for the home side when he was played through on goal, only for McGovern to slide in and smother the ball at the Irish forwards feet. Rooney also mishit a strike late on when it seemed easier to steer the ball on target.
Full Time 1-0
With the second half onslaught contained, Caley Thistle played out the match by taking the ball to the corners and there was a sense of relief around the ground when the final whistle sounded. It certainly wasn’t a vintage showing from Caley Thistle but the grit displayed was in marked contrast to the weak surrenders to County and Partick in previous home matches and Richie Foran’s man of the match showing showed the impact he can have for the Highland club when on form.
Terry Butcher noted in his post-match comments that the last time Caley won this cup they also won promotion. While this win will give the squad some much-needed confidence omens won’t turn around Caley Thistle’s stuttering start to the season – Butcher and Malpas will be hoping that this result will kick start a good run, especially at home, to push Caley Jags back into contention at the top of the table.
Match report written by tm4tj